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'It's part of the puzzle': Engineers test track at Churchill Downs following horse deaths

Track surface engineers spent two days using specialized equipment to ensure nothing was wrong.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Following the deaths of nine horses at Churchill Downs, including two on Derby day, the track has been reinspected this week.

Track surface engineers spent two days using specialized equipment to ensure nothing was wrong.

Their analysis included a radar towed on the back of their off-road vehicle to study the track's multiple layers.

Of the nine horse deaths, eight occurred on the track with six resulting from catastrophic injuries.

The other death happened in the paddock.

The engineers said they performed the same tests two weeks before the Spring Meet without any red flags, and with the retesting this week, they said they didn't see anything wrong.

"We have all these tests that we perform every day and we did not see any indications; it's part of the puzzle, we are looking at the track information to help the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission go back and look at all the pieces of the puzzle," Dr. Mick Peterson with Racing Surface Testing Laboratory said.

Besides the track surface at Churchill Downs, other pieces of the puzzle include tests and necropsies on the horses to try to discover any underlying issues which may of led to their injuries and deaths.

In a statement, a Churchill Downs spokesperson said Dr. Mike Peterson, director of the Agriculture Equine Programs at the University of Kentucky's Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

"[Peterson] is widely considered the world’s foremost racing surfaces researcher, to perform additional diagnostics on our main track," the track said. "He and his team were onsite last month in advance of Derby Week and we invited him back on Tuesday. The results of engineering analyses and tests in April were consistent with previous testing. We’re awaiting the results and analysis of his Tuesday visit. Injuries are multifaceted, and so far, there has been no discernable pattern detected in the recent injuries sustained."

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